Insight about Software and Its Awfulness

January 10, 2023

Software is great, isn’t it? Try to do hanging indents with numbers in Microsoft Word. If you want this function without wasting time with illogical and downright weird controls, call a Microsoft Certified Professional to code what you need. Law firms are good customers. What about figuring out which control in BlackMagic DaVinci delivers the effect you want? No problem. Hire someone who specializes in the mysteries of this sort of free software. No expert in Princeton, Illinois, or Bear Dance, Montana? Do the Zoom thing with a gig worker. That’s efficient. There are other examples; for instance, do you want to put your MP3 on an iPhone? Yeah, no problem. Just ask a 13 year old. She may do the transfer for less than an Apple Genius.

Why is software awful?

There Is No Software Maintenance” takes a step toward explaining what’s going on and what’s going to get worse. A lot worse. The write up states:

Software maintenance is simply software development.

I think this means that a minimal viable product is forever. What changes are wrappers, tweaks, and new MVP functions. Yes, that’s user friendly.

The essay reports:

The developers working on the product stay with the same product. They see how it is used, and understand how it has evolved.

My experience suggests that the mindset apparent in this article is the new normal.

The advantages are faster and cheaper, quicker revenue, and a specific view of the customer as irrelevant even if he, she, or it pays money.

The downsides? I jotted down a few which occurred to me:

  1. Changes may or may not “work”; that is, printing is killed. So what? Just fix it later.
  2. Users’ needs are secondary to what the product wizards are going to do. Oh, well, let’s take a break and not worry about today. Let’s plan for new features for tomorrow. Software is a moving target for everyone now.
  3. Assumptions about who will stick around to work on a system or software are meaningless. Staff quit, staff are RIFed, and staff are just an entity on the other end of an email with a contract working in Bulgaria or Pakistan.

What’s being lost with this attitude or mental framing? How about trust, reliability, consistency, and stability?

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2023


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